Atlanta mayor: ‘We’re going to fix this problem’ at airport

Atlanta Mayor Kasim Reed said Monday that a series of fixes would prevent another electrical fire from knocking out power to the world’s busiest airport, a day after the blaze stranded thousands of passengers and brought the transportation hub to a standstill.

The mayor said Georgia Power is discussing building new concrete casing to ensure that another blaze can be contained before it spreads to a backup switch, which is what Reed and the utility’s officials said led to Sunday’s blackout.

Reed also said the airport would invest in “more aggressive portable lighting capability” to ensure that a power outage doesn’t leave vast parts of the airport dim or darkened again. “We’re going to fix this problem,” he said.

The massive outage Sunday afternoon left planes and passengers stranded for hours, forced airlines to cancel more than 1,100 flights and created a logistical nightmare during the already-busy holiday travel season.

Though no injuries were reported, the lack of information during the first few hours led to a chaotic scene both inside and outside the airport. The mayor apologized Monday for the delays in his response, but said officials knew little about the extent of the blaze for hours because it erupted in underground tunnels and needed extensive ventilation to clear noxious fumes.

“We could always communicate better and more effectively,” Reed said. “But I did believe that it would be highly frustrating to hold a press event where we communicated nothing. Everyone knew that we had a fire that occurred, but we could not even know when we could get the airport up and operational.”